Nathan Johnson, Director of Public Lands, November 20, 2015
Fracking is once again threatening Ohio’s public lands. This time, the crosshairs are pointed at the Wayne National Forest. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service are formally considering whether or not to lease 31,000 acres of the Wayne to oil and gas interests.
The agencies initiated a similar, though smaller proposal in 2011. At that time, more than 3,000 acres near Athens, Ohio were proposed for lease sale. The Athens-area community, citizens across the state, and groups like OEC, Buckeye Forest Council, and Sierra Club stood up in opposition. We used people power and “NEPA,” a federal environmental statute signed into law in 1969 by Richard Nixon. (More on NEPA, below). In response, the agencies scrapped the leasing proposal; a significant victory at the time.
Now, due to several formal requests from the fracking industry, called “expressions of interest” or “EOIs,” the agencies are again considering whether to lease.
That’s where we come in. Before any leasing may occur, before even any formal decision to lease or not lease may be made, the agencies must conduct a thorough review of the environmental consequences at stake. This environmental review is required by NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act
At this early stage in the review, called “scoping,” the public is invited to submit comments. It’s our job to point out the environmental impacts and problems associated with fracking so that the agencies are aware of them and consider them in their review. The scoping period is also the time for comments to raise what are known as “alternatives to the proposed action.” The agencies are required to consider reasonable alternatives to any proposed leasing, so the more alternatives the public can suggest, the better.
Initial written comments are due by Friday, January 8, 2016. The preferred email address for comments is email@example.com; or physical address, BLM Northeastern States District, 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 200, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
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